1 - Happiness
All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time every body loves himself best. The cause for love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one. Further that happiness is daily experienced by every one in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that Self-Enquiry 'Who am I?' is the chief means.
2 - The Self and Non-Self
The self and the appearances therein as the snake in the rope can be well illustrated like this. There is a screen. On that screen first appears the figure of a king. He sits on a throne. Then before him on that same screen a play begins with various figures and objects and the king on the screen watches the play on the same screen. The seer and the seen are mere shadows on the screen which is the only reality, supporting all the pictures. In the world also, the seer and the seen together constitute the mind and the mind is supported by or based on the Self.
Questions about the reality of the world and about the existence of pain or evil in the world will all cease when you enquire, 'Who am I?' and find out the seer. Without a seer the world and the evils thereof alleged do not exist.
The world is of the form of the five categories of sense objects, and nothing else. These five kinds of objects are sensed by the five senses. As all are perceived to the mind through these five senses, the world is nothing but the mind. Is there a world apart from the mind?
If the mind, the source of all knowledge and activity subsides, the vision of the world will cease. Just as knowledge of the real rope does not dawn till the fancied notion of the serpent disappears, vision (experience) of the Reality cannot be gained unless the superimposed vision of the universe is abandoned.
That which really exists is only the Self. The world, jiva (individual Self) and Isvara (God) are mental creations like the appearance of the pearl in the oyster. All these appear at the same time and disappear similarly. The Self alone is the world, the ego and Isvara.
3 - Mind
Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self.
That which rises in this body as 'I' is the mind.
When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart names and forms disappear .... If the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I' or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal 'I' alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.
There is no other way of controlling the mind except as prescribed in the books like the Gita, drawing in the mind as often as it strays or goes outward, and fixing it in the Self. Of course it will not be easy to do it. It will come only with practice or sadhana.
God illumines the mind and shines within it. One cannot know God by means of the mind. One can but turn the mind inwards and merge it in God.
4 - ''Who am I?'' - Enquiry
Thoughts alone constitute the mind; and for all thoughts the base or source is the 'I' thought. 'I' is the mind. If we go inward questing for the source of the 'I', the 'I' topples down. This is the jnana enquiry.
Where the 'I' merges, another entity emerges as 'I' - 'I' of its own accord. That is the perfect Self.
There is no use removing doubts. If we clear one doubt another arises and there will be no end of doubts. All doubts will cease only when the doubter and his source have been found. Seek for the source of the doubter, and you find he is really non-existent. Doubter ceasing, doubts will cease.
It is no doubt said in some books that one should go on cultivating one good quality after another and thus prepare for moksha; but for those who follow the jnana or vichara marga, their sadhana is itself quite enough for acquiring all daivic qualities; they need not do anything else.
5 - Surrender
To a devotee who was praying she should have more frequent visions of Siva, Bhagavan said, ''Surrender to Him and abide by His Will whether He appears or disappears; await His pleasure. If you ask Him to do as you like it is not surrender but command to God. You cannot have Him obey you and yet think you have surrendered. He knows what is best and when and how to do it. His is the burden. You have no longer any cares. All your cares are His. Such is surrender. That is bhakti.''
7 - Grace and Guru
Contact with jnanis is good. They will work through silence. A Guru is not the physical form. Hence his contact remains even after the physical form of the Guru vanishes.
One can go to another Guru after one's Guru passes away. But after all, Gurus are one, as none of them is the form. Always mental contact is the best.
Sat sang means association with Sat or reality. One who knows or has realized Sat is also regarded as Sat. Such association is absolutely necessary for all. Sankara has said, in all the three worlds there is no boat like sat sang to carry one safely across the ocean of births and deaths.
8 - Self-Realization
It is false to speak of realization. What is there to realize it? The real is as it is, ever. How to realize it? All that is required is this. We have realized the unreal i.e., regarded as real what is unreal. We have to give up this attitude. That is all that is required for us to attain jnana. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in the books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The akasa (space) in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the akasa there. The akasa was there, then, and is also there now. Similarly, we have simply to throw out all the age long samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up the Self will shine alone. Effortless and choiceless awareness is our real state. If we can attain it or be in it, it is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age long vasanas (impressions) carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that effort is necessary, for most people. Of course, everybody, every book says 'Be quiet or still'. But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if you find one who has at once achieved the mouna (silence) or supreme state indicated, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been completed in a previous life. Such effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation.
You may go on reading any number of books on Vedanta. They can only tell you 'Realize the Self'. The Self cannot be found in books. You have to find if for yourself.
The whole of Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements 'I am that I am' and 'Be still and know that I am God'.